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Saturday, 25 November 2006 00:00

CGID Head speaks out about increase gun violence in New York City :

Calls for hasher penalties for gun related convictions in New York State


New York: The President of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), Rickford Burke, is expressing concern about the seemingly relentless increase in shootings and gun violence in some Caribbean-American communities in New York City, particularly Brooklyn, and is calling on politicians, law enforcement officials and community leaders to collaboratively take action to reverse this trend.


"We believe that the State legislature should review the current laws and enact harsher, mandatory sentences for illegal gun possession, use, trafficking, sale and other related convictions, as part of a new regime of legislative and social policy measures that are urgently needed to pull our communities out of this abyss of drug offences, gang violence, robberies and shootings," Burke stated in an interview.


"We have also got to make the penalties for gun crimes, including unlawful possession and illegal sale, so harsh and arduous, that it will be a permanent deterrent to perpetrators of this type of crime. This would be an effective expression of society's intolerance of this unacceptable and deviant conduct," the CGID head noted.  


Observing that "at this juncture, we may have to carefully balance civil liberties with the public's right to safety and security", Burke said "there is an obvious need for law enforcement to adopt more all-encompassing measures to enforce safety on our streets, while preserving our constitutional rights."


The Institute's President stressed that "I am extremely cognizant of and sensitive to the issue of Police brutality, abuse and excesses which are also prevalent in this community. In fact I would argue that Police brutality perpetuates the very culture of violence that makes our communities less safe, and thus must be similarly routed out. Burke pointed to the November 25, Queens Police killing of Sean Bell on his wedding day and the shootng of his friends Trent Benefeld, shot 3 times and Joseph Guzman, shot 17 times.


"These shotings demonstrate how Police abuse could endanger the lives of our young people and undermine the safety of our community. There is no justification for the Police to discharge fifty shots at unarmed citizens. That is reckless, negligent  conduct. So I hope that there will be a thorough investigation of this incident and that there will be indictments if it is determined that the Police officers broke the law," he added.


The CGID President said "We need the Police to police our community, not to undermine it by turning young men into victims or convicts, and harassing law-abiding citizens without cause. However, the deplorable upsurge of gun violence have given rise to questions about a need for an across-the-board, equitably implementation of stricter but lawful patrol measures designed to arrest the trend of pervasive gun possession and gun violence."    


Condemning two recent high profile murders in Brooklyn; that of Toolsie Sukhu in Canarsie and Anthony Davis in East Flatbush, Burke lashed out at individuals who he says are destroying our quality of life by recklessly arming themselves, for no reason, and negligently resorting to guns to solve petty conflicts. He said that individuals who act with such "depraved indifference" undermine our security and deserve to be shutout from the rest of society.


Burke contended that the numerous murders, shootings, robberies, burglaries and pervasive gun possession in our community are unacceptable. He argued that the wanton loss of innocent lives to gun violence is unbearable, therefore we as a community must fight to put an end to this scourge."  


Observing that in Brooklyn this trend is prevalent in the 67th, 69th, 70th, 71st, 73rd, 75th and 77th Precincts, he said that "Elected officials and other community leaders must forcefully condemn this societal menace and take stern measures to halt the crime trajectory."


The CGID President observed that "from a criminological perspective, we as a community need to analyze these crimes against the backdrop of an apparent degeneration of the institutions of society that have traditionally provided a foundation for raising a disciplined, productive citizen. In this light, we have to examine the effectiveness of the home and family, the church and the school system on our young people and adjust our social development agenda to focus closely on the development of productive citizens who can eschew and reject the street lifestyle, and pursue fulfilling lives within the bounds of the law and the freedoms that society offers."


He added that "Our social system has become so politically correct, morally restrictive and litigious, that discipline in the school and home borders on being proscribed. Thus parents and teachers are scared to apply strong discipline." The result, he said "is a society in which many young adults lack discipline and are unprepared for a society that places limits on personal conduct and demand individual accountability."   


He said the family, church and school, are institutions that have the responsibility to stimulate and develop the minds of our youngsters and help mold their destiny. There is obviously a breakdown in this process, and this failure is manifested in the deviant behavior of young people who engage in criminal conduct and resort to guns and other forms of violence as a means of conflict resolution.


Burke challenged political and community leaders to come together on this subject and to devise meaningful strategies to get young people to put down the guns, get off of the streets, go back to school and find jobs.


He however opined that this will only happen if the government in partnership with civil society creates opportunities for them engage in productive activities, be it community service, sports, entertainment or other activities that will dissuade them from street violence," Burke contended.   


"I therefore strongly call on the State Legislature and the City Council to appropriate monies for projects that will create jobs for our youth. Additionally, we have got to once again launch initiatives to educate our youth about the dreadful dangers of gun-possession and gun violence and their devastating impact on this community. We have lost too many of our people to gun violence, and it seems that we are on the brink of losing a whole generation to the streets," he lamented.


The CGID head maintained that a successful resolution lies in the legislative and sociological approach, coupled with scrupulous law enforcement and better community- police cooperation and collaboration.